JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska –
The Alaska Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion debuted a new program earlier this year for recruits to earn high school credit for their time in basic combat training. The first Soldier to take advantage of this opportunity, Pfc. Hunter Skaw, graduated from basic combat training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina earlier this month, just two weeks before starting his senior year at Colony High School in Wasilla.
“This program offers high school credit for health, physical education or electives, for students who join the Alaska Army National Guard and complete basic training while they are still in high school,” said Lt. Col. Donna Johnson, assistant chief of staff for the Alaska Army National Guard.
The Recruit Sustainment Program—which is where recruits are assigned until they are fully trained and handed off to their units—already offered high school students a split-train option, allowing them to join the Army National Guard while still in their junior year. They could attend basic combat training during the summer before their senior year, and usually finish their advanced individual training after graduating from high school. This new program provides Soldiers an opportunity to earn high school credit for their time spent in BCT over the summer.
“Basic combat training is 10 weeks long, so they could easily fit it into their summer,” said Lt. Col. David Jurva, commander of the RRB.
“And basic training is challenging, I would say that it’s probably more challenging than a normal P.E. class in high school,” added Johnson. “It’s pretty awesome that the board of education worked with us to make this happen.”
As the first Soldier to benefit from this new program, Skaw agrees.
“You can earn credits for doing something that you love, and it helps better yourself,” he said. “Not just on a physical level and an emotional level, but on an educational level as well.”
Next, Skaw will finish out his senior year at Colony High School before moving on to Advanced Individual Training for his military specialty, a 16-week long school in Fort Eustis, Virginia, to become a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer.
Skaw plans to attend college for aviation or engineering and then hopes for an opportunity to be hired full-time with his Army Guard unit. He wants to stay in Alaska to serve his state and nation while he pursues his education at University of Alaska Anchorage.
“[Basic training] was a great learning experience, and the majority of it was learning how to become very disciplined,” explained Skaw. “I did come out with a few new things, but it definitely helps with maturity and also the amount of self-confidence that people have.”
Soldiers may also earn high school credit for completing AIT if they are able to complete it after basic training and prior to their senior year. According to Jurva, it is up to the school to decide how many credits the student will receive for their hard work at BCT and AIT.
“This [program] is something that is only available within the Army National Guard component,” said Jurva. “It’s a great option for students who want to maximize the advantages of joining the military early.”
Skaw shared his advice for any other students that may be considering joining the National Guard and using this program.
“Don’t give up on yourself even when everything is tough,” he said. “Just keep pushing through and eventually you'll make it to that finish line and break on through.”